Activewear has seen a recent spike in popularity over the last few years, no doubt enabled by the numerous 'athleisure' and 'smart-casual' trends gracing the runways and streets.
High street brands pump out garments correlating to the trend of the moment. Opting for cheap and thoughtless mass production, and using materials and chemicals that are severly damaging to both workers and the environment, all for the end product to poor quality that end up dumped in landfills at the end of its short life.
As with most trends, people tend to hop on board, but fearing the short-lived nature of the phenomenon, buy these garments as cheaply as possible, with little regard to the quality of the item, and how or where it was made. When the trend inevitably dies, the garments are discarded, and the cycle continues.
This is known as fast fashion.
Fast fashion is incredibly damaging to Earth, and the people and creatures on it.
Remember, 'fast fashion isn't free, someone, somewhere is paying for it'.
So where do your yoga leggings come into it?
A quick drying, stretchy and supportive nature is often required in activewear, and so most productions tend to opt for the cheapest fabrics that can do these jobs. These are often synthetic. Synthetic fabrics are a workout lover's nightmare. They aren't the most breathable of fabrics, and when mixed with sweat, they can start to smell pretty bad. Not good.
Additionally, activewear needs to be washed frequently. Polyester, acrylic, nylon and other synthetic compounds make up at least 60% of clothing. Each time we wash our clothes, microplastics enter our oceans. Laundry of synthetic textiles is the largest source of release of primary microplastics to the world oceans. Every year, around half a million tonnes of microfibers released by washed garments contribute to ocean pollution. That means for an average wash load of 6 kg, over 700,000 microplastic fibres could be released per wash.
Fast fashion also has numerous and severe links with violating human rights. Garment workers usually work with no ventilation, breathing in toxic substances, inhaling fiber dust or blasted sand in unsafe buildings. The overwhelming majority of workers are women. Most of the garments sold in the UK are produced in Asian countries where labour is cheap. Although it might be a quick and cheap purchase for you, someone else suffers because of it.
How can I break this cycle?
This information can be scary to read, and even more so to digest. Suddenly every pair of cheap leggings you have ever bought is the direct cause of the Earth's problems.
Let's not be so dramatic. To move forward, we need to look forward. What choices can you make going forward that will not contribute to the vicious fast fashion cycle?
Buy better, wear for longer:
Quality over quantity wins over anything in the sustainability debate. If you buy higher quality clothing and activewear, the less you will end up wearing out and subsequently throwing away. Buying timeless pieces and not falling prey to temporary trends will mean your wardrobe looks great for years to come. In the UK, 30% of clothes in the average wardrobe haven't been wore in a year. It's definitely time to change that. Instead of consuming for the sake of consuming, buy wisely and when you know you will stay in love with that item for the duration of it's life.
There are so many incredible options out there, all you have to do is choose to look! Hey, our brands are a pretty good place to start...
Donate, re-cycle or re-purpose:
Maybe those leggings don't fit anymore. Maybe those jeans have ripped beyond wearable repair. You may no longer want or use a garment, but you don't have to be the reason it ends up in landfill. If it's still in good condition, do a swap night wirth the girls, take it to a clothing bank, charity shop or even sell it and get some extra cash (to put towards your new, sustainable wardrobe of course!) If it's no longer wearable take it to be recycled (find a local recycling area) or pass it over to a creative friend, for them to give it new life. Your old jeans may be their new bag!
Adapt your habits:
Despite all of your best efforts, it can be easy to fall back on old habits. Mass online retailers make it way too easy to bulk buy cheap clothing that you'll probably only end up wearing once or twice. Learn to curb your shopping habits. You can still use online retailers, but maybe look more into each product before purchasing. Most larger retailers will offer a concious option, or even a vintage/reworked section. You don't have to completely change your habits, just adapt.
Your money, your power:
When we give our money to a company we must remember that our business condones and promotes their footprint and process. This is truly powerful, we can continue to fund the problem with each purchase or we can uplift business who are truly making an effort, there is a great deal of potential in your wallet.
The most meaningful change is a consistant one, it's no good throwing out your whole wardrobe to start afresh, it serves the planet so much more to hold it in our mind with every small decision we make. Notice your consuming habits and mindfully choose the decision that feels most true to you.
Every decision counts:
Every single decision that we make counts, whether it causes harm or whether it is the kind choice. We have so much power in the way we live our lives, the way we consume being a huge part of our impact. A conscious choice to do right by the Earth makes an enormous difference. Nothing is insignificant so celebrate your kind choices!
What are your favourite tips for a sustainable wardrobe? Let us know in the comments!